Advice on mackerel catching opportunities for 2016 released today (30 September) from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) doesn’t reflect reality, states Ian Gatt, chief executive of the  Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association.

The advice for 2016 is a total catch allocation for all countries participating in the fishery of 667,385 tonnes, compared with 831,906 tonnes in 2015.

Commenting on the advice, Mr Gatt said: “The early year mackerel season was hugely successful with skippers reporting an unprecedented amount of mackerel in the sea. Regular reports of shoals extending 50 miles have been observed during the first quarter fishery.  The autumn mackerel fishery has just kicked off in the northern North Sea and skippers are seeing plenty of mackerel out there.

“It’s clear from the scientific advice that the key piece of information going into the assessment this year is data from a Nordic ecosystem survey. Information from this survey suggests that the mackerel biomass has dropped from 9m tonnes to 7.7m tonnes, which is contrary to what fishermen are seeing on the grounds.

“There has been a huge debate among scientists whether this type of information should be used to assess the abundance of pelagic fish including mackerel. But it’s clear to us that this information should not be included in the assessment.  Our understanding is if this information hadn’t been used the advice would say the stock is in a stable condition.  Next year the triennial egg survey will take place; this is a huge survey both in space and time and will provide a much better picture of the stock abundance.”